Huskies spikers set new sights
EAGLE-VAIL ” Last year, the Battle Mountain volleyball team went 30-1, was perfect against 4A teams and plowed through No. 1 Sterling, No. 2 Cheyenne Mountain and No. 3 Mountain View at the state tournament in what amounted to a dream season.
The Huskies are the defending state champions, but 2007 is a new year.
“Unlike a professional team, we have a whole new group of girls, so I don’t even look at it as defending a state title,” Huskies coach Brian Doyon said. “I don’t have my same team to defend with. We just proceed like every year. We establish some goals, establish some parameters of what we can and can’t do and how we can play, and I think the girls are doing that real well.”
“It’s a fresh slate. We got what we got last year,” said Devon Abbott, one of four returners from last year’s state champs. “We’ll take it. But there are a lot of talented girls on this team. We’ve just got to learn how to play together and work together, do our best and see where you get.”
The Huskies don’t intend to settle back into the land of .500, but seasons like last fall just don’t happen often. Battle Mountain has what should be, by all accounts, a very solid squad, which could well battle for the 4A Slope crown.
There are the state veterans in Abbott, Alexa Corcoran, Kori Landauer and Jen Thul. From last year’s junior varsity squad, Hannah Ellison, Rebecca Hughes, Sydney Miller and Kelsey Plath have gotten the call to move up. Toss in Anna Padget, a transfer from Glenwood Springs, which should spice think up in the Huskies-Demons rivalry, and it’s not exactly a rebuilding year in Eagle-Vail.
“It was fun to be a part of last year, and it’s fun to see how we’re changing into this year’s team,” Thul said. “I’m looking forward to this team.”
Not exactly green
Graduation took a severe toll on the Huskies with the likes of Britney Brown, Sofia Lindroth, Nicole Penwill and Crystin Rodrick among others playing at college now. The cupboard is not bare, though.
Abbott is back at middle blocker. She has more than earned her spurs in two years of varsity play with the Huskies. Last year, her best game came in likely the biggest contest of the season against Sterling at the state tournament.
Landauer is likely one of the most overlooked players on last year’s team. Whether at libero or as a defensive specialist, she flew all over the court for digs, and, like Abbot, is in her third year with varsity. Landauer is will fill in at right-outside hitter this year.
“A lot of girls have a great sense of competitiveness,” Abbott said. “We had mental toughness last year. If we set good examples and keep working hard and drive them, then we can all benefit from it.”
Corcoran takes over at setter, while Thul is slotted at outside hitter. Corcoran and Thul are no strangers to varsity play. Both filled in for Britney Brown and Nicole Penwill, respectively, last year and the Huskies kept on ticking.
“They know the varsity level,” Doyon said. “There are only a few who haven’t seen the varsity game yet. Realistically, we’re looking pretty good as far as general court experience.”
With the exception of Padget (outside), Ellison (middle), Hughes (outside), Miller (outside) and Plath (defensive specialist) all spent last year in practice playing against the Huskies, something which should serve them well.
“They already know what hard hitting is,” Doyon said with a laugh. “They already know what it is like to play against us. Now it’s just, ‘Can you bring that game to other people?’ They have that knowledge. They also have a lot of great leaders, so that when I give them a reference to emulate, they remember when they had to do this. It’s not like rebuilding.”
While Battle Mountain is forging its new identity, the rest of the state will view the Huskies as the defending state champions. To their credit, the Huskies have strengthened their slate for 2007.
After Thursday’s opener at Summit County, the Huskies have Fruita Monument (Sept. 4), Rampart (Sept. 6), Grand Junction Central (Sept. 8) and Doherty (Sept. 18) as nonconference foes.
After gliding through the Slope last year, the Huskies will have much tougher sledding when they open at Eagle Valley (Sept. 11). The Devils, along with Palisade, Steamboat Springs and Glenwood Springs, figure to be serious obstacles in the way of another league title.
“I expect us to be in more of a battle in league,” Doyon said. “Our goals are never based on outcomes. The big thing is, and nobody has been talking about this, is that everybody is going to bring their A-game against us because they want to beat us. If everyone comes out and plays their best game against us, it’s going to be difficult for us to win some matches.”
It should be noted that Doyon does a fine imitation of Lou Holtz.
However Doyon phrases it, the Huskies are quietly confident in 2007.
“We had a discussion on how it was a new season and new girls,” Abbott said. “We set our own expectations. We all have non-negotiable behaviors, kind of team rules, and one of them is to hold your teammates to a high standard. We’re trying to get the best out of each other.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.